Focus on Results
by Ron D. Pate
Many individuals that fail to achieve meaningful results in their lives may have high levels of intelligence, and indeed may be quite capable and perform in an excellent manner at a wide range of tasks or actions. They may be quite dedicated and work extremely hard, putting in far greater hours than many others in their position might consider. Yet, if you look at the overall results they create in their lives, they fail to reach the goals they seek to achieve.
Often this outcome is due to their inability to focus on gaining the results they seek, keeping the viewpoint too myopic, studying the tasks to be performed but being unable to see from the proverbial "thirty-thousand foot" view. If you are to achieve success, particularly in the fast paced environment we nowadays find ourselves in, you must keep your eye on the target and adjust your actions to move toward that target with speed and agility. Don't get caught up in the day to day details to the extent that you lose sight of what is most important.
Let's consider the small business owner. I've met many who would become entrepreneurs, and who have had quite successful careers in various highly disciplined and complex fields. Yet when they've tried to approach running or growing their own business they've failed to realize the outcomes they've so strongly desired. If you analyze their actions, you will find almost without fail that they've become too caught up in the details and methodologies of running their business, perhaps in manners that were appropriate in their previous more limited, perhaps more specialized roles, but which are woefully inadequate in their current entrepreneurial environment. As the pressure mounts and deadlines for realization of certain results loom, they become more caught up in the perfection of details, spending late hours balancing a checkbook to the penny versus entering a 20 cent adjustment, typing endless memos when quick phone calls the next day will suffice, or drawing detailed schematics on a computer program when a simple hand sketch will be perfectly acceptable.
Often these individuals will attempt to limit their tasks or projects to a simple few so that incredible detail can be paid to each and every step of the process, such that the process will be as tight and error free as possible. If challenged, these individuals will strongly defend their actions, sometimes raising quite valid points to justify their methodical approach. Meanwhile, time passes, projects go uncompleted, overhead costs mount, and opportunities fly by unrealized.
In any entrepreneurial activity, and in more established companies when you reach the higher levels of leadership or management, it is necessary to learn to adjust your actions, and your comfort level, so that your primary focus is on results. Of course, it is always important, critically so, that you not sacrifice honesty, morality, or proper dealings in the pursuit of results, but you may have to change your ways, do things that are somewhat uncomfortable, and you may even have to cut a few corners here and there, such that you realize the results you need to succeed. Having a perfected process becomes meaningless if the reason the process exists was to reach a result and in the end you never realize that result because you focused too much on the details along the way.
Let's consider an example from real estate, one of my passions. As a real estate investor, in the past I've participated in the partial or complete rehabilitation of many properties, ranging from mobile homes to multi-family apartment buildings. When I manage a rehab myself from start to finish, I consider changes I need to make to the floor plan to improve the end use of the structure, consider who I need to use on the job, and draw up some instructions for those contractors so they know how to do their job. In the past most of my sketches have been done by hand, with approximate dimensions, and then the contractors are responsible for tweaking those dimensions as the work is completed. I provide the vision, any critical dimensions needed (to meet legal requirements, etc) and then let the workers finalize the exact details. Likewise, I draw up work instructions that list the major tasks, and any tasks that might be ambiguous, but I don't iron out every single little wrinkle in advance. Rather I focus on guiding the process, and often small tweaks pop up which are handled with a simple finger point and verbal instruction, so that work can proceed. Rather than going through a complex process to get changes implemented, I handwrite changes and approve them onsite whenever possible, and work goes on.
Some people, usually those new to the field who come from other, more technically oriented backgrounds, attempt to perfect the process, spend days and days carefully drawing floor plans, write and rewrite instructions to try and perfect them delaying the work for days, sometimes weeks on end. Then when any change is needed it takes days, to carefully consider the tweaks, and then after each change is carefully digested then and only then is action taken. Their rehabs, if completed, have fewer potential opportunities for rework but take so long that much greater losses mount as carrying costs go on forever, and projects never seem to get complete to the chagrin of all involved, especially those who have to get results to feed the family. Please understand, figuring out the process, and tweaking it by standardizing on materials, finding good contractors that can get it done and done fairly accurately on the first go around, and so forth is important. But focus on doing those things that are truly important to get the results, and not on those things that might in a theoretical world not bound by monetary and time restraints be ideal but that in the real world, with lack of focus on results, might sink the ship.
It is a careful balance you must weigh. On the one hand you may focus too heavily on results while forgetting to pay attention to the process, in which case the results may never be forthcoming. On the other hand you may get too caught up in the details and lose sight of results in which case the opportunity to achieve those results may pass you by. If you are to achieve high levels of personal, financial, or business success, you must stay focused on the end results you seek to realize, and you must tweak or shorten the process, making logical sacrifices as you go, so that you realize the outcomes before time passes you by and opportunity moves on to those who know how to drag, kicking and screaming, the projects they must complete to their conclusion.
So in closing, follow this advice: FOCUS
We hope that you have found this article useful and we welcome your comments and suggestions.
Copyright © 2006 by Ron D. Pate. All rights reserved.